East Germany Table of Contents
East Germany is a resource-poor and relatively small politico-economic entity. It must import most of the raw materials it needs, aside from lignite, copper, and potash. Iron ore deposits are widely scattered in areas unfavorable to mining and have thin seams with an iron content of only 20 to 35 percent. Most of the iron ore, high-grade coal, and oil needed by the country and all of its bauxite, chromium, manganese, and phosphate must be imported. Most cotton and lumber also come from abroad. According to West German calculations, in the early 1980s East Germany was exporting 25 to 30 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP--see Glossary) to pay for these basic materials. Even the country's water supply has been barely sufficient for its needs. However, East Germany is self-sufficient in a number of other minerals: rock salt, fluorspar, heavy spar, stone and earth for building, tin, and raw materials for glass and ceramics manufacture.
East Germany's agricultural base is not as large as that of other East European countries; the country has an agricultural area of only 0.4 hectare per citizen. However, its climate and soil fertility are adequate for large-scale production of a wide range of crops and livestock.
By the mid-1980s, East Germany's heavy reliance on lignite, the only fuel source it possessed in great quantity, was exacting a heavy price from the country's natural environment, resulting in a high level of atmospheric pollution, particularly from sulfur dioxide. In the 1980s, increasing use of nitrate fertilizers and pesticides was also creating problems. The country has become one of the most polluted regions of Europe. In an effort to combat the growing pollution, the East German government, having long affirmed the importance of environmental protection, was a party to a number of international agreements concerning progressive reduction of harmful emissions. Additional government policies to protect the environment and the country's resources included recycling of materials, energy conservation, and enforcement of already existing regulations.
Data as of July 1987